by Suz email@example.com
Disclaimer - "I am *NOT* HOSTILE!" B'Elanna yelled as she was assimilated by the Para-Borg.
WARNING - MAJORLY SAPPY.
"Ensign Kim, tell me a story."
Harry wasn't surprised. She would make the request of him every so often as part of her ongoing journey on how to understand individualism. Problem was, he was running out of new story ideas. He wasn't the most creative person aboard Voyager. Harry had a scientific soul; in that respect at least he was similar to the Captain.
And that was it.
That thought gave him the idea of a story someone else had told him when he had been babysitting last week.
He began to speak.
The smell of sweets and cakes permeated the air as Naomi leapt from her Godfathers arms and hit the ground, barely pausing as she ran full pelt across the wooden floor of the Sandrine's holoprogramme.
"Naomi!" Neelix yelled and she quickly turned her head, hair whipping around, to see him holding up a hand in protest. She knew that she was a much faster runner than he was, so she faced forward again and ran even faster, weaving between the other people in the holodeck.
There were a few exclamations of "Oh!", "Careful!" and "Running for excitement is irrelevant," but for the most part she was not interrupted.
Giggling slightly, she slowed down as she reached the other end of Sandrine's where she grabbed a delicious looking cake from the selection on display on the table. Her nose wrinkled up when she saw the leola root quiche that was next to the plate of cakes.
"Yuck," she said, carefully holding the cake between her fingers and licking the pink icing from the top.
Turning around again, she heard Neelix calling for her. Grinning, she quickly ran to the darkest spot she could find - under a table in the corner of the room.
For the occasion Neelix had replicated red and green tablecloths, so as she ducked under the unoccupied table she pulled the tablecloth back into place, obscuring most of her body from view.
Snuggling as far into the corner as she could, she sat with her bent legs in front of her and tucked her knees against her chest.
Quickly finishing the cake, Naomi soon found herself drifting off to sleep and her chin rested on top of her knees.
She was startled out of her drowsiness by the sound of wood scraping on wood. Realising what the sound was, she tried to push herself even further into the wall as two chairs were dragged into view and two people sat down, their legs sticking out under the tablecloth.
The legs to Naomi's left were clearly female, clad in sheer tights, and the legs to her right appeared to be male, being more heavily built and covered in dark trousers.
The female crossed her left leg over her right and spoke: "What do you think?"
Naomi recognised the distinctive, gravily voice immediately. It was Captain Janeway.
"About what?" the man asked, and again Naomi recognised the voice - Commander Chakotay.
Naomi listened even more carefully. They were the two most important people on the ship, as mommy had told her many times. She knew she could learn a lot from them.
"About Neelix's party," the Captain responded, bouncing her left leg on her other knee slightly.
"I think he's done a terrific job, especially considering it's the first Christmas party he's ever arranged."
"True. Although in many ways the concept is similar to Prixin - spending time talking with the ones you love, celebrating life."
When the Commander didn't respond, the Captain's leg halted its slight bouncing and her whole body leaned towards him. "Chakotay? Are you alright?"
His answer was slow, his words distracted. Naomi watched as he shifted in his chair. "Sorry," he said "I was just pondering over your comment."
Her legs uncrossed, then re-crossed. "What specific part of my comment where you pondering?" She leant even closer, and her voice sounded as if she already knew. Naomi couldn't understand why she would ask if she already knew the answer to her own question.
This time there was no hesitation when the Commander replied. "The part about being with the ones you love. It's true. Almost everyone I care about most is on this ship. There are a few exceptions - Svena and my cousin in Ohio - but everyone else...is gone."
The Captains voice was sympathetic when she responded and she reached out to give his knee a reassuring pat. "I'm so sorry, Chakotay. I didn't mean to remind you-"
"It's okay," he interrupted, taking her hand in one of his own. "Well actually...I guess it's not okay. What I meant was that it's okay in the sense that I know you didn't mean to remind me." He paused briefly. "It's just that sometimes...I let myself think about them, and when I do I can't seem to think about anything else." The Commander gave the Captains hand a quick squeeze. "I'm sorry Kathryn. This is supposed to be a happy occasion. I'm not exactly cheering you up here, am I?"
As her answer, she placed her other hand over his. "Oh I don't know Chakotay. I said this was a time when you talk with the ones you love. That includes those who are no longer with us. Maybe now is the time to talk about them, to make sure their lives had meaning."
His arm moved slightly, indicating he was shrugging. "They lived. They were loved. That's all the justification the universe needs."
"You're a very eloquent man sometimes Chakotay, do you know that?"
"Well that's quite a compliment from someone as linguistically talented as you Kathryn."
"Excuse me?! I'm still struggling with basic Klingon! What kind of line...oh. Oh, I see. You were making fun of me."
"Nothing gets by you Kathryn."
"Oh that's nice. I pay *you* a compliment and you insult me."
Naomi frowned and sucked on the end of her right thumb. She was confused. Why it certainly sounded as if the Captain was annoyed, her tone was very friendly. The words were harsh, but her tone was not. Why would she do that? Adults never failed to confuse her. Why did they have this habit of saying things they didn't mean?
"I could do with another drink, couldn't you?" the Commander asked.
"Yes, but I don't want either of us to move." she insisted, her grip on his hand tightening. "See if you can get Sandrine's attention the next time she comes around."
He half turned in his seat, careful to keep his hand between hers. Naomi decided he sounded nervous when he spoke. "I don't think that's such a-"
"Ah, Bonjour Kathryn and Chakotay!"
The little girl recognised the loud, heavily accented voice as Sandrine. She liked Sandrine. She was the only one aside from the Commander who could get away with using the Captains first name.
"Oh great," muttered the Commander softly, and Naomi frowned again at his sudden foul mood. Didn't he like Sandrine?
Sandrine's purple shoes came into the edge of Naomi's view. "Can I get you something Kathryn? Or *Chakotay*?" she asked, concentrating on the Commander's name for some reason Naomi couldn't fathom.
"Actually Sandrine, we'd love a new round of drinks," the Captain stated enthusiastically.
"Of course! Same as before? Or perhaps Chakotay would like some red wine, yes?"
"No thank you Sandrine." His body seemed to get smaller the longer he talked to her, as he pulled his limbs tighter together.
The French woman sighed loudly before saying in a dejected manner "Very well. I will return in a moment."
It was then that Naomi noticed what the Captain was doing. Her body appeared to be shaking and muffled sounds were coming from her direction. She was laughing. "Oh Chakotay...you...should have seen your expression!" Apparently she could contain her mirth no longer as a small burst of laughter escaped before she stopped it again.
"I'm just lucky you were there Kathryn," he replied "she'd have been all over me if you hadn't been here to protect me."
The Captains laughter vanished and she uncrossed her legs. "So I'm here to protect you?"
The Commander's free hand was placed on top of the pile of hands that were resting on his knee. "I always feel safe when you're next to me."
"Chakotay..." the Captain whispered.
"Captain!" Neelix exclaimed loudly, and Naomi almost shrieked, throwing her hands up in front of her face as if she could ward him off. "Have you seen Naomi?"
As soon as they heard his voice, the Captain and Commander broke away from each other completely. Hands were disengaged quickly and they leant in opposite directions. The Commander tapped his foot on the floor.
"No Neelix, I haven't." the Captain replied, sounding angry.
"She seems to have been missing for a while. I'm getting quite worried-"
Naomi couldn't hold in her laughter any longer. She giggled.
Everyone on the other side of the table she was hiding under froze. Slowly, an elegant hand reached down to grab the edge of the tablecloth and pulled it up. Naomi didn't move, and watched as the Captain's, the Commander's, and Neelix's head all came into view as they bent down to have a look at their interloper.
The Captains cheeks turned red as she noticed that practically everyone in the room was looking at them now. "How long have you been there young lady?"
"A while..." she responded, not having the slightest concept of time. She didn't get a chance to say anything else as Neelix surged forward and grabbed her tenderly.
"I told you not to go running off Naomi! I've been terribly worried about you."
She pouted, sad that she had made him upset. "I'm sorry Uncle Neelix."
He smiled slightly. "Come on. Let's leave the Captain and Commander alone-"
"Actually I should be going myself," the Captain informed him, her cheeks still red. She began to stand.
Naomi quickly stood and grabbed her hand. "But you can't leave Captain! Sandrine will be all over the Commander if you don't stay to protect him."
The young girl had absolutely no idea as to why the Captain looked even more embarrassed, why Chakotay grinned slightly, and why the other people in the room started laughing.
Seven studied him for a moment. "Is that a true story Ensign?"
"Does it matter? You know the others I've told you aren't."
She nodded slightly. "Yes, but the others you shared with me did not involve members of the crew."
He took a sip of his drink. "That's a pretty good point." He considered his reply for a moment. "All I'll say is this...I may have altered some of the words so it was easier for you to understand but if you really want to know-"
"Are you suggesting I would not be able to understand the story if you had not altered the words for me?"
"Well...I suppose I presumed that since you've had little or no contact with children that you may not be able to understand some of the phrases they use."
Regarding him with an arched eyebrow, she took a careful sip of her own drink. "I was once a child."
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